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Monika Bravo

Monika Bravo, URUMU, 2014,  installation view. Photo: Oscar Monsalve.

Monika Bravo, URUMU, 2014, installation view. Photo: Oscar Monsalve.

NC Arte - Bogotá

Curated by Beatriz López

URUMU: Origin and Cycle of Art and Life.

By Caridad Botella

As if it were the pointing finger of an ancient cicerone, Monika Bravo’s (Colombia, 1964) project URUMU at NC Arte (Bogotá) invites us to reflect upon the ideas of origin and cycle both in art and life. Bravo’s installations offer the spectator a place for contemplation and reflection. Her strategy is twofold: first, a space is created where we feel immersed but not alienated from the world; and second, the artist works on imagery we unavoidably feel related to, urban or rural landscapes that we necessarily experience in our lives. But how these images are used in order to construct a narrative is neither too obvious nor two cryptic, keeping a certain mystery so we remain looking and wondering.

The project URUMU, a word used in the indigenous Arhuaco language for “snail,” unfolds its narrative as the spiral of life the animal makes reference to. There is the shape of the snail’s shell, as well as the trail it leaves behind while it moves forward-and so it all begins, with a line, with a shape, weaving the passage of time.

Bravo’s project can be understood in these terms, from beginning to end. From the title to the final installation, URUMU is created and executed as a whole. The different layers of meaning are “woven” via digital image treatment as a contemporary form of drawing and painting. Bravo uses digital technology to draw and paint but also to develop and assemble the complex, non-linear narrative of the project. In a series of videos and digital drawings (Weaving Time 2013-2014), the artist goes back to her native country, in particular to the Arhuaco culture, popular for its handmade mochilas (bags). The drawings on the bags are inspired by nature, and because of the way they are woven, shapes are forced into a geometrical abstraction of the original: rivers, mountains, animals, trees, etc.

So we encounter a series of three videos that begin by forming geometrical shapes and end by showing the origin, the landscapes that serve as inspiration. We begin by the end and end by the origin, becoming part of a cycle that actually has no real beginning or end. Next to the videos we see several digital drawings, colorful, printed abstractions mounted on glass, which are, on their own, the origin of how the artist works: drawing as the origin of all forms of art. One does not exist without the other. From nature to ancient craft, from drawing to time-based art, Bravo’s project is involving and hypnotic but reflective, as is common in her work, which makes it transcend the mere experience.

To keep the mysticism alive, Beatriz López, the curator of the show, introduces the spectator to the project in an unusual way, in which no intricate or über-intellectual explanation is offered. Instead, a fictive conversation between two Arhuaco people, “K” and “S,” is presented. “The universe that shelters us is a spiral and it dwells in the bottom of my mochila,” K says. As an ancient weaver, the artist unleashes her spiral to show us a path with no beginning and no end, images and shapes in the process of being formed and effaced right in front of our eyes.

Weaving Time (2013-2014) is part of the show “Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Visual and Material Culture from Colombia” at Bard Graduate Center in New York, which opened in April and is curated by José Roca.

(February 1 - March 29, 2014)

Caridad Botella is an art historian and independent art and film curator based in Bogotá, Colombia. She is a frequent contributor to various publications in Europe and the U.S. and regularly lectures about cell-phone filmmaking, new-media curating, film appreciation and art history.

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